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Shock value and terrible writing: the future of gaming?
Editorial by 
Editor
October 28, 2009, 01:31:45
 
Games are looking more realistic and developers keep trying harder to excite their audiences but I'm finding that instead of them getting better, many are crossing a line of good taste and demonstrating just how shallow our talent pool of writers and directors is.

The march of technology should automatically improve games, shouldn't it? But instead of games rivalling film and literature in their ability to express ideas and emotions, the demands of the technology are instead exposing the juvenile, shallow and overall inarticulate nature of a lot of developers. Today, story and visual impact is valued as much as gameplay, but it doesn't feel to me like most developers are able to deliver.

For me, Resident Evil 5 was spoilt by the ignorant portrayal of Africa. Whether you could say it was unintentionally racist, blissfully unaware of the socio-politcal context of its imagery, or just laughably spun from crude Japanese stereotypes of black people and the continent, it was a disaster because it felt so dimwitted. Expensive, flashy and shocking, yes, but devoid of any creative integrity. Capcom had the budget and the tools to make something incredible, but either their ambitions or their skill as content makers failed them.

Bad content displayed in high defintion at 60 fps with blood physics and surround sound voice acting seems so much worse than bad content displayed in 8-bit pixels.

We all knew that as the generations went by, the violence that most games are based on would start to get more realistic and perhaps more uncomfortable to experience. As the graphics improve we expect deeper and more nuanced stories to go with them, to live up to what we see on the screen and to justify the violence, or better yet, flesh it out with other experiences. Unfortunately great ideas and great writing seem to be in short supply. Do developers have the right kind of directors and writers to achieve it? Is the talent there? Where it's lacking we'll see more and more games that rely on shock value to stand out, and that's unfortunately what I think we're seeing.

Take Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game has a level in which you play a terrorist (or undercover agent with terrorists) shooting civilians inside an airport. The civilians in the crowded terminal are your only targets during this mission, and with state of the art graphics the crowds howl and scream as they try to run and are cut down by your hail of bullets or are picked off through the scope of your rifle. It's pretty shocking. If you haven't already seen the movies, you're bound to hear about it when the mainstream media picks up on it.

Maybe I'm just turning into Danny Glover and getting too old for this shit, but from what I've seen it's genuinely repulsive and it doesn't exist for any other reason than to cause controversy and to appeal to the anarchistic nature of teenagers. Let's be honest, Infinity Ward doesn't have the literary skills for this to be described as a commentary on world events, or a thought provoking interactive sequence - or any of the other things they will defend themselves with.


This seems to be the worrying formula:


Inherently violent game genres

+

increasing realistic graphics

+

densensitized gamers

+

crowded marketplace

+

mediocre developers desperate to stimulate them

=

Depressingly unsophisticated games clamoring for your attention with thoughtless graphic violence


I'm not bothered by the fact that artistically bankrupt games exist. It's that the gaming media seems to embrace them as being the core of gaming. Journalists write off the old guard, imaginative games like Mario platformers as being casual, kiddy, family, not for the core, meanwhile these clumsy, grisly epics are held up as the biggest releases of the year. They are the poster children of modern gaming, they're what people inevitably judge gaming by and so long as they do that, the medium won't progress.

Those games wouldn't stand a chance in hell of garnering respect in other mediums. MW2 wouldn't stand up against a double episode of 24, let alone a novel or film with actual depth. It's sad to me that we have so far to go.

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Posted: 10/28/09, 01:31:45    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
Moldy morality.

I don't really care for that fake urgency in scripted games, either. If you're going to tell me to hurry up, have the balls to apply some consequences if I don't. And don't hide glowing stuff around the level! Enslaved was guilty of this, compounding it with the fact that if you venture too far away from your partner character, your head implodes.


Posted by 
 on: 06/26/11, 21:39:42
Anand said:
Enslaved was guilty of this, compounding it with the fact that if you venture too far away from your partner character, your head implodes.


lol wut


Posted by 
 on: 06/26/11, 23:55:22
@X-pert74

Your partner "enslaves" you with a crown of some sort by making you her prisoner so I guess this is what happens then.


Posted by 
 on: 06/26/11, 23:57:32
To be honest, I can't remember if it implodes or explodes. But the explosive crown does surround your head.

And Enslaved is still totally worth playing for the story!


Posted by 
 on: 06/27/11, 04:35:16  - Edited by 
 on: 06/27/11, 04:36:40
So Jessica Chobot is a voice actor in Mass Effect 3. For a major character, from what I can tell.


She also previewed the game for G4.



I think gaming journalism has reached a new low.


Posted by 
 on: 02/01/12, 20:15:10
Eh, they didn't have much integrity to lose.


Posted by 
 on: 02/01/12, 20:16:40
Garnett Lee (1up Yours / Weekend Confirmed) also did a bit of voice work in PixelJunk Sidescroller.

Not sure what the big deal is, but I understand that the gaming press is a easy target (though I never quite understood why).


Posted by 
 on: 02/01/12, 20:28:51
As long as they aren't reviewing the games they are in, I don't see the problem with someone from the gaming media finding more income by being in a game. It's cool for fans of theirs and it means nothing to non-fans. If they sucked at their voice acting, then that's a whole 'nother thing. But this is a mountain from a molehill.


Posted by 
 on: 02/01/12, 23:46:57
@Anand

I agree with that. All of it, really.

If you actually are running out of time, close some doors or SOMETHING. That kinda bugs me in games, too. I was playing MH the other day with the Cha-Cha stuff, and I kept getting signaled that I had to go to Area 6 or something..but I needed Herbs. So I kept getting Herbs. And I watched the life bar, and it never dropped.

Now, Monster Hunter is awesome, but if the situation truly is troublesome and urgent..why not have the lifebar take a hit?

I also think games, somehow, should figure out a way to know that you've played wayyy too long. Like, on Okami, I've done day to night, and night to day SO many times. I don't think the forces of evil are like "you know what? Maybe we oughtta take a break.."

And both of those games are awesome. So its happening in awesome games, I can imagine the worst offenders are even worse.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 00:31:14
@DrFinkelstein

I know this is "just video games", but the following applies to everyone in the public eye, really, even people as lowly as game journalists: appearance of conflict of interest is as bad as actual conflict of interest. And in the past, despite the fact that gaming journalism in a way does play a role in game marketing, gaming EIC's have usually taken great pains to ensure that there is no appearance of conflict of interest. The people in charge of the ads in gaming magazines had no contact with the reviewers, the people wined and dined at press events weren't the ones reviewing the game, etc. And that's the way things should be.

Having Chobot directly on EA's payroll... well I don't see how come I have to explain the problem here. She probably won't review the game, but you still got this woman paid to give her opinion about video games on a game company's payroll. That's bad. I don't know if anyone ever turned to her for legit gaming opinions, but if some people did, and they see her promoting ME3 (because she IS promoting the game currently in marketing videos), what will they think? Will they realize they're seeing Chobot-the-EA-voice-actor, or will they not be able to separate that persona from Chobot-the-girl-who-tells-me-if-a-game-is-good?

Game journalists usually don't stay gaming journalists once they take up a job at a game company. A great number of former game journalists and current game journalists on twitter find the Chobot deal pretty disgusting. Why don't you?

Or are gaming journalists perhaps only following the herd and denouncing the situation because "the gaming press is an easy target"?


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 00:58:23
Am I the only one who reads Chobot as Chocobo?


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:00:22
New Forms said:
Am I the only one who reads Chobot as PSPLicker?

Fixed


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:10:05
Because people might miss the easy potshot I took at the gaming press... Guillaume said:
@DrFinkelstein

I know this is "just video games", but the following applies to everyone in the public eye, really, even people as lowly as game journalists: appearance of conflict of interest is as bad as actual conflict of interest. And in the past, despite the fact that gaming journalism in a way does play a role in game marketing, gaming EIC's have usually taken great pains to ensure that there is no appearance of conflict of interest. The people in charge of the ads in gaming magazines had no contact with the reviewers, the people wined and dined at press events weren't the ones reviewing the game, etc. And that's the way things should be.

Having Chobot directly on EA's payroll... well I don't see how come I have to explain the problem here. She probably won't review the game, but you still got this woman paid to give her opinion about video games on a game company's payroll. That's bad. I don't know if anyone ever turned to her for legit gaming opinions, but if some people did, and they see her promoting ME3 (because she IS promoting the game currently in marketing videos), what will they think? Will they realize they're seeing Chobot-the-EA-voice-actor, or will they not be able to separate that persona from Chobot-the-girl-who-tells-me-if-a-game-is-good?

Game journalists usually don't stay gaming journalists once they take up a job at a game company. A great number of former game journalists and current game journalists on twitter find the Chobot deal pretty disgusting. Why don't you?

Or are gaming journalists perhaps only following the herd and denouncing the situation because "the gaming press is an easy target"?


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:22:36
Step 1.


Step 2.


Step 3. Soil the gaming industry

Step 4. ????

Step 5. Profit


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:22:42  - Edited by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:23:14
@Guillaume

Chobot isn't really a journalist though, she's just the pretty hostest who reads her script to the viewers. Or at least that's what she was back at IGN, I haven't actually seen the ME3 preview video.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:24:01
@Secret_Tunnel

Following scripts including on podcasts?


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:25:25  - Edited by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:25:40
@anon_mastermind

HD Gaming: Bringing you the finest dark circles under eyes, and beauty markish / moley arms.

Can't wait for WIi U!


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:34:27
@Guillaume

You should exert your energy towards things that matter more like the Washington press corps playing Super Soakers with John McCain while he was running for president.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:35:42
@Jargon

Others have tackled that before I did so what would be the point? Also, this is a gaming board, we could all be exerting our energies elsewhere right now. And I know you understand this/agree and are just trolling me.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:44:01
@Jargon
@Guillaume

We probably just need more pictures of girls licking things. That'll make {most} everyone happier.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:46:54
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